It's open season on open space

New Jersey's Rahway River Park,
CC BY 2.0 New Jersey's Rahway River Park, The Cultural Landscape Foundation

In Union County, New Jersey, the Olmsted brothers (sons of Frederick Law Olmsted of Central Park fame) designed a 124-acre park for a county that "sought to make provisions for open spaces and to protect the Rahway River, the key potable water source in the area." Parks are nice, but so is football, so the County wants to tear up part of the park for a 1200 seat stadium. According to The Cultural Landscape Foundation,

The imposition of such a sports complex on the greensward would destroy the open sight lines that characterized Olmsted Brothers’ original design, and recast the park as a sports venue suited to a narrow constituency. By creating a track, field, and support facilities to serve the interests of the Rahway Board of Education, the County is contradicting its own assertions that its parks are for the benefit of all. Along with the adverse effect the proposed additions would have on other activities in the park, it is clear that the park’s 410 parking spaces could not accommodate such a sports complex for long.

Scott Park Sunken GardenScott Park Sunken Garden/CC BY 2.0

According to Charles Birnbaum, President & CEO of the foundation, this is happening all over North America.

Other examples include the elegant and locally beloved Scott Sunken Garden in Lansing, MI, which will be demolished and replaced with a utility sub-station, and a signature open space in Memphis’ historic Overton Park, designed by George Kessler and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, which will be used as a parking lot indefinitely. National headlines accompanied the controversial use of sacred tribal lands for a proposed energy pipeline, while recent proposals have surfaced that would give away federally owned and protected land to states.

bears ears© Pat Bagley

TreeHugger has covered a few of these attempted land grabs and rollbacks of national monuments.

Now The Cultural Landscape Foundation wants to attract attention to "those cultural landscapes that are threatened by new construction or other uses that can be served outside of neighborhood parkland." They are everywhere, in cities and in the country; where I live, schoolyards that were used as public green space have gone to condos; lands that were promised as parks turned into subdivisions.

These open spaces are often the lungs of our cities, and as TCLF notes,

These types of threats are not new, but their intensity and frequency seems to be increasing. As the urban renaissance continues, development pressures grow on local and municipal parkland. The innate values of open space are downplayed and proposals move forward to confiscate irreplaceable parkland and replace it with new, often incompatible, uses.

Do you know of lands being lost in your part of the world? Nominate it for the 2017 Landslide Open Season on Open Space pages; "This annual compendium will be chosen from hundreds of submitted nominations based on the significance of the site and the imminency of the threat. "

Tags: Preservation | Trees

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